Creative Expressions: Interview with artist/singer/dancer Alvin Koh

Alvin’s been a supporter of Vocalogy since our inception. Alvin is a classical singer, a  ballet enthusiast and dancer, and a trained visual artist.

We interviewed him to understand how he perceives creativity and how he manages his different creative interests.

 

GN (Grace Ng) : Let’s talk about your experience in visual art. Why does visual art appeal to you?

 

AK (Alvin Koh) : I find a blank piece of paper or canvas very liberating. It’s like a clean slate and I can do anything I want. It’s like being a god, being a creator. After all, what does a god do but create?

 

GN: Yes, that’s true. Creating something is a way of playing god.

 

AK: At first I didn’t think that way at the time but during my teens I felt that I just needed to create something. I started taking classes at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) when I was about 13 years old. I always liked to draw. I began with drawing still life. We perceive reality in 3 dimensions but to put it on paper which is 2 dimensions, requires a kind of skill in  translation.

 

GN: What is your favourite subject matter?

 

AK: At the moment, I like flowers, the sea, birds and even amorphous shapes. These interest me.

 

GN: How would you describe your current style?

 

AK: My current style these days begins with one shape. I start with a shape on canvas and see what images come to mind. Say if I want to draw a flower, I just splash paint on the canvas and then something comes.Usually it becomes something semi-figurative like a flower or a bird, maybe hills or even a face or part of the human anatomy. So I don’t have a fixed idea of what I want to paint but I do have any idea of the colours that I want to use.

 

GN: What makes you choose a certain colour?

 

AK: First, if I paint in the medium of watercolor, it makes sense to start with a lighter shade like yellow or orange because in that medium you work from light to dark. In a way, I find this medium unforgiving. I prefer working with acrylic because you can cover up your mistakes. In watercolor,  mistakes are there and irreversible. So the nature of the medium predisposes me to start with lighter colours such as orange, yellow or light red.

 

GN: Apart from the medium, are there any other considerations that determine your choice of colours?

 

AK: For me, it is also the spiritual aspect of the colours. So for example, blue or a certain shade of blue has a more spiritual tone or dimension to it. It is actually recognized by a lot of healers and mystics. For me, a tone of yellow may represent purity.

 

GN: What is your favourite colour? Do you have one?

 

AK: Royal blue. I can’t explain why I like it. It seems to me that a colour indicates a differ world, a world that is different from the one that we live in.

 

First Love

First Love

This is a pure watercolor. I didn’t start out with the idea to paint two persons. I started out splashing colour on the paper, with the lighter shade first and yellow is the lightest in a way. I started out with yellow and I slowly added the other colours to merge with it. In watercolour, there are techniques called ‘wet on wet’, ‘wet on dry’ and even ‘dry on dry’. I played with different techniques in this painting. This happens at a subsconscious level. I’ve been drawing hundreds and hundreds of paintings so this is all quite intuitive for me like waiting for the right moment to apply colour so that they fade at the right moment before I add colour. The timing is very important. When people on the street ask me, ‘why did you draw it this way’, I have stop for a while and think because this comes intuitively to me. It must be how it’s like with voice to you, you hear it and you can give an exercise without thinking.

 

GN: Yes I am quite intuitive now. But I had to look and refer to materials when I started out.

 

GN: So tell me more about your choreography. When did you get involved in dance and choreography?

 

AK:I started not too long ago when I had to choreograph a number for an event at Wesley Methodist Church. My friend needed a dancer and a choreographer. I chose a song that I was singing at the time, ‘You Raise Me Up’ for the dance number. My friend and I danced first and then I sang my song.

 

GN: How have you felt your dance has progressed through the years?

 

AK: I felt that I was a horrible dancer. When I started off I couldn’t catch the first beat. I like to think that I’ve improved a lot over the years. There’s always more room for improvement. I’m not born with a facility for ballet. I don’t have a good turn out. I’m not naturally flexible. I find it hard to bring my legs all the way up. I’m also very tall. For me to move to music that is created for people who are not that tall, I have to prepare my mind and body way before hand. People sometimes think I’m ahead of the beat but if I don’t do that, I can’t get to the next point on time. Anacruses are very important to me.

 

GN: When did you get interested in dance?

 

AK: When I was 21.

 

GN: Is there a connection between your work in dance and your work in painting?

 

AK: I saw how dancers moved and thought they looked beautiful. They were not only beautiful when they were dancing but they were beautiful when they were pausing as well. Grace, poise, the lines, the shapes they form-dance is definitely visual. While a dance is visual in nature, it is also more than visual at the same time. A dance is like many visuals combined. It is thousands and thousands of visuals combined. You move from a certain storyboard to another one. It’s like capturing something from point A to point B to point Z successively and smoothly. Unlike the visual arts, you are not restricted to capturing just that one moment in time. Ironically people are drawn to dance for that movement in time in the same way that visual arts capture a moment in time. Marketing materials for dance productions show that high moment in a dance where the dancer is dancing alone or with a partner.

 

GN: It’s like a flipbook where there’s all these pictures and then you take out one little page.

AK: Yes, something like that.

 

GN: How has dance affected your philosophy of Art?

 

AK: I felt that it is possible to condense all the different moments in dance onto a 2D platform if one is diligent. You can also map different moments in time onto the canvas. The interesting thing is that the canvas is just this blank white thing existing in one point in time, but you’re putting down all the moments in the time, all those stills, at the same time. That is very powerful. It may cause the viewer to be confused because there are so many things going on in the painting. They could feel ecstatic or troubled without being able to explain it. You see this a lot in non-figurative art, semi-abstract art. Some images are archetypal. They stir up a certain emotion. They might even convey situations that are universal or states of being that pertain to emotion but not restricted to it.

 

GN: Is this wordless expression a wordless communication? I would like to understand if you are talking about the medium, the process or the impact of the work?

 

AK: The work may also includes words and text by the way. I’m talking more about that primal quality of state of mind.

 

GN: Where do you think that comes from?

 

AK: I think there is a big reservoir of collective consciousness. It may also have been programmed genetically into us. Of course, I don’t rule out social programming.

 

GN: How does what you’ve mentioned about your visual art work and your dance work impact you as a singer? How does it impact your artistic choices?

 

AK: I dance to contemplate the suitability of my technical and phrasing choices such as legato or staccato and line.

 

GN:  Do you use Dalcroze Eurhythmics (Music and Movement) in your work as a singer?

 

AK: I don’t think that Dalcroze Eurthymics specifically and consciously addresses technical issues in singing. It doesn’t address the micro aspects of singing either such as small muscular movements and certainly not in a codified manner

 

GN: How and where does Singing fit into your creative consciousness?

 

AK: After I’ve sung something, I have an impulse to put that into painting. Singing, unless you record it, is ephemeral. In the visual arts, once you capture it, it’s there. The transient nature of Singing and even Dance creates this yearning in me to codify that visually.

 

Split Abstractions

Split Abstractions

 

AK: I sang before I did this. After I did this, I felt inspired to sing another song- ‘Wanderer’s Nachtlied 2’ by Schubert.

 

GN: Tell me about the first song that inspired the painting.

 

AK: I wasn’t singing a particular song. I was vocalizing when the images just came into my mind.

 

GN: What inspires these images? Is the process like word painting where you draw a line that goes up when the melody goes up? Is that what you are talking about or is it something else?

 

AK: It’s not a linear thought direction. The process is intuitive. It is not constrained by pitch although it can be.

 

GN: Can you explain the choice of colour in this work?

 

AK:The choice of colour was not directly influenced by the singing or vocalizing.After I got the images, I started painting. When I paint, I don’t sing. I chose sepia and grey because I find that the colours have a complementary quality. I didn’t use orange here because it would be too ‘in your face’. So I used shades of brown and blue.

 

GN: How did you plan the layout of the painting?

 

AK: There wasn’t any planning. The vocalizing just triggered the impulse to paint.

 

GN: Who is your favourite painter and why?

 

AK: William Turner. I find his colours so scintallating and yet subtle. His use of colours, especially how he places colours side by side, creates this euphoric effect in me. His work creates this moment that draws you in so much that you just have to keep looking. I also like the pastoral quality of his subject matter.

 

GN: Who is your favourite singer and why?

 

AK: I have a few. I like Sumi Jo, Kiri Te Kanawa. I like Yma Sumac, Robin Mano.

 

GN: Next. Favourite dancers?

 

AK: I like Sylvie Guillem. She is unlike any other dancer that I’ve seen. She dares to break boundaries. She was a gymnast. She was classically trained. She gave it up to do her own contemporary, autobiographical thing. She makes dance accessible. She dances with technical perfection and yet you can still relate to it.

 

GN: What makes a good Artist?

 

AK: You need to know your craft well. You need to be well-read and well-informed as to what’s going on. He or she dares to say and do something he or she personally feels compelled to, whether or not, it is acceptable by the majority after much deliberation and even at the risk of social and political persecution.

 

GN: Are you talking about an irrational compulsion to express oneself?

 

AK: I’m talking about a decision to express oneself that may not seem rational to the public. This doesn’t mean that they have to do something new. It may be just a matter of revisiting or rehashing something that has been done before yet remains undeveloped.

 

GN: This has been a fascinating interview. Thank you.

 

AK: Thank you.

Grace Ng is a voice teacher and holistic healer. She is based in Singapore and teaches with her studio Vocalogy.

Well-being and Good Grades: Jin Shin Jyutsu Student Survival Guide

Jin Shin Jyutsu Physio-Philosophy ® is a form of energy healing. The practitioner or the patient places their hands on two points on the body or holds a finger and/or toe. Simple, non-invasive, easy to use and best of all, free, it is my go-to method for releasing the voice in my voice studio.

 

It has many other uses. I’ve collected some quickies that your child can use to stay balanced and centered in the frenzy of activity that is the school term.

 

MIND

Spleen Organ Function Flow Quickie

Jin Shin Jyutsu adopts concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The concept of organ function flows is one of them. Essentially an organ function flow is a pathway of energy through the body whose function is condensed in the organ that it is named after.

 

The Spleen flow is of particular interest. “ The Spleen is said to be the ‘residence’ of the Intellect (Yi). The Intellect resides in the Spleen and is responsible for applied thinking, studying, memorizing, focusing, concentrating and generating ideas…if the Spleen is strong, thinking will be clear, memory good and the capacity for concentrating, studying and generating ideas will also be good. If the Spleen is weak, the Intellect will be dull and thinking will be slow, memory poor and the capacity for studying, concentrating and focusing will all be weak. Conversely, excessive studying, mental work and concentration for sustained periods can weaken the Spleen.”(Macioca, Giovanni. ‘The Foundations of Chinese Medicine: A Comprehensive Text.” 3rd edition. 2015, Elsevier Ltd.)

 

To harmonize the Spleen flow with Jin Shin Jyutsu, get your child to place his or her right hand on the coccyx bone (tailbone) and the left hand on the left inner ankle. This can be easily done if you cross your legs. Place the hands at that position for 2 minutes. You do not need to apply any pressure or massage the area. Just placing your hands at the positions stated will suffice. If you can feel pulsation under your hands, wait until the pulsation subsides. Remove your hands. Subsequently, do the same but with the left hand on the coccyx bone and the right hand on the right inner ankle.

 

Alternatively, you may also have your child hold his or her thumb on the right and/or left for 2 minutes to harmonize the Spleen flow.

 

Apply as needed or once in the morning and once before bed. The Spleen flow can also help you fall asleep.

 

 

Safety energy lock 14

A safety energy lock is an invisible ball of energy in a specific location on the body. There are 26 safety energy locks in Jin Shin Jyutsu through which energy runs. If these locks become blocked, energy reverses resulting in emotional, mental and physical disharmonies.

 

Safety energy lock 14, located at the bottom ribs on both sides of the body, is also known as ‘balance, equilibrium and sustenance’. It is at the level of the Mind. It is easily disharmonized by excessive mental work. A disharmonized safety energy lock 14 may cause digestive disorders e.g. lactose intolerance, and vision issues e.g. shortsightedness. These extend to the emotional and mental realms as well. The person may not be able to digest new information and ideas. His or her vision may only be limited to what’s in front of him or her and not beyond.

 

To harmonize safety energy lock 14, have your child place his or her left hand over the right lower ribs. The right hand should be placed on the bend of the left arm (close to the elbow). Place your hands at the specified positions for 2 minutes or until pulsation under both hands subsides.

 

Reverse the hand positions (right hand over left lower ribs; left hand on the bend of right elbow) and hold for 2 minutes or until pulsation under both hands subsides.

 

Apply as needed.

 

BODY

The Third Method of Correction Quickie

The Third Method of Correction quickie gives you a quick boost of energy if you need it. Place the tips of your fingers of both hands on the top centre of your head. It may be easier to rest your elbows on a table while doing this quickie so that your arms don’t get tired.

 

Apply as needed e.g. during recess or other breaks.

 

Safety Energy Lock 15

Safety Energy Lock 15 is known as ‘wash our hearts with laughter’ and ‘the comedian’. It helps us to lighten up about situations. This is important when you’re under stress. I call it the ‘chillax’ pill. When we ‘chillax’ we can see situations as they are. We are not caught up in our emotions and can make decisions based on the facts in front of us.

 

Laughter is the best medicine and harmonizing safety energy lock 15 will help to boost your child’s immunity so that he or she doesn’t fall ill when the rest of his or her classmates are. Harmonizing this safety energy lock also helps reduce inflammation and is good for any conditions that end with ‘itis’ such as laryngitis and appendicitis.

 

To harmonize safety energy lock 15, wrap your thumbs around your hips. Place your fingers in your hip fold (where your legs meet your pelvis) for 2 minutes. If you can feel pulsation under your fingers, remove your fingers when pulsation subsides.

 

Apply as needed.

 

EMOTIONS

Holding your fingers

There are 5 disharmonizing Attitudes in Jin Shin Jyutsu. They are Worry, Fear, Anger, Sadness and Trying-to/Pretense. They form the acronym WFAST (‘get rid of Worry, FAST’). They are all represented on the fingers of the hand.

 

Holding the thumb helps us with Worry.

 

Holding the index finger helps us with Fear.

 

Holding the middle finger helps us with Anger.

 

Holding the ring finger helps us with Sadness.

 

Holding the pinky finger help us with Trying-to/ Pretense.

 

Hold the desired finger for about 2 minutes or as long as you like. In addition, each finger represents a Depth in Jin Shin Jyutsu, a biological building block e.g. bone, muscle, two organ function flows, 133,000 body functions and 5 safety energy locks. Holding the finger will harmonize all of this including the respective Attitude.

 

The Big Hug

Safety energy lock 26 sits under the arms. Harmonizing safety energy lock 26 calms us down. This is especially useful in stressful situations such as before an exam. In addition, it helps with digestion and will get you out of a food coma.

 

To harmonize safety energy lock 26, give yourself a big hug. Hold it for 2 minutes. A hug produces a psychological effect of feeling loved and protected, which also helps reduce stress and anxiety.

 

Wishing you and your children all the best in the new school year!

 

Grace Ng Ee Wern is a Voice teacher and Jin Shin Jyutsu Physio-Philosophy Practitioner who teaches with her private voice studio Vocalogy in Singapore.

 

Jin Shin Jyutsu Physio-Philosophy is complementary to Western medicine. Please see a doctor if you need urgent medical help.

 

 

 

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/9650814@N04/3058831985″>Noa Strupler</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>

Beat Jet Lag with Jin Shin Jyutsu Physio-Philosophy (R)

by Grace Ng Ee Wern

The movement and circulation of energy creates the body and maintains its wellbeing. Jin Shin Jyutsu Physio-Philosophy ® recognizes 17 individualized body function energies. Of these, 12 are organ function flows and are vital in distributing life energy through the body. An organ function flow may include a particular organ but is not limited to that organ. It is a flow of energy that encompasses the function of that organ. For example, the entire lung function flow that includes the lungs regulates the respiratory system. These organ flows flow into each other creating one unified, continuous circuit of energy that runs throughout the body.

 

Each organ function flow receives its most abundant supply of energy during a specific 2-hour period. Movement of the 12 organ function flows in the body throughout the day thus constitutes our innate biorhythm or body clock.

 

Travelling across time zones disrupts our body clock. This may result in jet lag. Reset your body clock by doing the organ function flow that is most active the time when you land in the new country.

 

Here are the times of greatest activity for each individualized organ function flow: –

 

Lung function energy                                           4am

Large intestine function energy                         6am

Stomach function energy                                   8am

Spleen function energy                                         10am

Heart function energy                                           12 noon

Small intestine function energy                          2pm

Bladder function energy                                       4pm

Kidney function energy                                         6pm

Diaphragm function energy                                 8pm

Umbilicus function energy                                  10pm

Gallbladder function energy                                12 midnight

Liver function energy                                            2am

 

Here are the short forms of the right flows for each of the organ function energies. Place your hands at the positions indicated for 5 minutes or until you feel better. If you can feel pulsation under your hands, wait for the pulsation to subside before removing your hands from the positions indicated.

 

The right side of the body represents a person’s current life situation while the left side represents a person’s past. As such, I feel that right quickies would be more appropriate for jet lag and have provided them below. Feel free, however, to reverse the hand positions for the left side if you feel that that is what your body needs.

 

Lung function energy: place your right hand on the bottom of your ribcage on the right side of the body. Place your left hand over your right collarbone.

 

Large intestine function energy: place your right hand on the junction where the neck meets the shoulders on the left side of the body. Hold your right index finger with your left hand.

 

Stomach function energy: place your right hand over your right collarbone. Place your left hand over your right cheekbone.

 

Spleen function energy: place your left hand over your coccyx bone. Place your right hand on the inner part of your right ankle.

 

Heart function energy: place your right hand on the junction where your neck meets your shoulders on the right side of the body. Hold your right wrist with your left hand.

 

Small intestine function energy: place your right hand on the junction where your neck meets your shoulders on the right side of the body. Place your left hand below the left collarbone.

 

Bladder function energy: place your right hand on the middle of your neck on the right side. Place your left hand under your right buttock.

 

Kidney function energy: sit comfortably with your right leg crossed over your left. Place your right hand over your pubic bone. This is where the fly would be if you are wearing jeans. Hold your right little toe with your left hand.

 

Diaphragm function energy: place your right hand over the lower ribs on the right side of your body. Wrap the fingers of your left hand around your left thumb.

 

Umbilicus function energy: place your right hand on the area above your left eyebrow. Place your left hand on the outer side of your right elbow.

 

Gallbladder function energy: Place your right hand on the middle of your neck on the right side of the body. Place your left hand on the area above your left eyebrow.

 

Liver function energy: Place your left hand on the back of your head, at the base of the skull, on the left side of your body. Place your right hand over your right collarbone.

 

 

In addition to the above, you can make a ring with your thumb and ring finger to invigorate the whole body. Hold this position for 2-5 minutes.

 

Bon voyage!

 

* Please note that Jin Shin Jyutsu Physio-Philosophy is meant to be complementary to and not a replacement for conventional medicine. Please seek medical treatment if you need it.

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/97026642@N00/4901971670″>AP-BEU Pakistan International Airlines – PIA</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>

Performer: Vera Tan

Jewel Song from ‘West Side Story’

Vera Tan (alumna) was a finalist in Symphony 92.4FM’s ‘Young Talents Project 2012’. She currently resides in Canberra, Australia.

Performer: Gabrielle Lim

High Hopes

Gabrielle Lim performs both Classical and Musical Theatre styles and is currently learning tap dancing. She recently achieved Distinction in her Associated Board Royal Schools of Music  Grade 1 Classical Singing examination.

Performer: Lokaa Krishna

Blank Space

Lokaa is from Chennai, India. She learns singing with us over Skype. She flew into Singapore especially for this recital. She had been taking classes for about 6 months prior.